Friday, June 21, 2013

Kindle Tools 2.9

Amazon released new updates to both Kindlegen and Previewer yesterday, each of which add important new features for content creators producing fixed layout files. Unfortunately, none of them are entirely successful, or altogether helpful.

First, Kindlegen has added support for page layout properties (i.e. two-page spreads) for pages specified as an image in the spine section of the manifest. In other words, you can define an unembedded full-page image as a page by listing it in the spine, and it will now support the page layout properties just like a standard html page would. Presumably, however, it only does this under the same instances as the standard pages do, which thus far has been limited to just a handful of devices, and only certain circumstances (such as having a "comic" book-type value). I haven't tested this yet to verify if this is true, but will do so and report the results when I have them. I'll also try to add an image-based page spread into the templates as soon as I find the time. Not a significant upgrade, but useful for those who want to produce fixed layouts consisting only of full-page images, with no added features.

Previewer, on the other hand, has had a major update that adds the ability to convert files to the .azk format that is supported in the Kindle app for iOS devices. This finally allows you to transfer fixed layout files to the iPad and iPhone for testing, via iTunes. Unfortunately, while the page layouts work correctly (for the most part), none of the region magnification features are functional in the file I tested. You can pinch and zoom the default tap target content (but not pan and scroll it, which makes this all but useless), which shows that the mag regions are still present, but you cannot access the actual magnified target content. Moreover, there are some errors in rendering page content under certain circumstances, such as when using CSS embedded in the HTML file. Also, a similar error as the relative-positioning issue that currently plagues the Paperwhite is occurring here as well, although in this case the horizontal positioning is functioning correctly, but not the vertical alignment. Further testing is necessary.

At any rate, you can now at least test your basic page layouts on iOS devices to see how they're rendering in the Kindle for iOS app. Hopefully the mag region function issue will be fixed with subsequent updates, since these work correctly in other fixed layout ebooks I've purchased from Amazon and downloaded to my iPad.